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Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the United Nations said they had delivered urgently-needed aid in Syria on Friday despite ongoing fighting extremely close to the humanitarian convoy.

An AFP correspondent inside Douma said shelling and air strikes are rocking the town today, trapping residents indoors.

Ali al-Zatari, the United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator in Syria, said any bombardment of the area during the delivery of aid was in breach of "assurances of safety from parties including the Russian Federation", AFP news agency reports.

"Aid workers should not have to risk their lives to deliver assistance".

The Syrian government and its key ally Russian Federation say a daily five-hour pause, which began in principle last week, does not apply to the targeting of some of the rebel groups within Eastern Ghouta.

Syrian state television then showed footage that it said was of 13 fighters and their families leaving the enclave.

Damascus and Moscow accuse the insurgents of shooting at civilians to prevent them fleeing. Almost 1,000 people have been killed in the past three weeks of relentless bombardment.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said talks were underway between government representatives and local figures to organise the evacuation of civilians or fighters from parts of the enclave.

It added that 15 of the 20 hospitals and clinics that the charity supports have been hit by bombing or shelling, with varying degrees of damage.

It was the second aid operation in a week that was disrupted by military operations, after deliveries on Monday were cut short due to bombardment.

Syrian army gains ground in eastern Ghouta

The trucks had been stuck at the Wafideen crossing over the entire week, waiting to enter and deliver the remaining food parcels and flour bags.

The convoy entered during a brief lull but the bombardment and fighting resumed after the convoy entered Eastern Ghouta.

Forces loyal to the Syrian government have now reportedly taken back half of the area. His claim could not be independently verified.

Eastern Ghouta, which lies just east of Damascus, is home to some 400,000 civilians and is controlled by myriad armed groups.

Observers say despite the continuing increase in civilian fatalities, there is little prospect that fighting in eastern Ghouta will ease.

Since 18 February, government troops have taken control of half the region, one of the last held by rebels.

Three days later, Russian Federation announced its own ceasefire initiative calling for daily, five-hour "humanitarian pauses" in eastern Ghouta.

A spokesman for one of the rebel groups, however, told Reuters that neither Harasta nor Douma were cut off. "But the losers are plain to see - they are the people of Syria".

The government has opened what it says are several safe routes out of eastern Ghouta for civilians, but none are known to have left so far.


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